4 weeks ago

ALtogether Alabama and its partners lend support to Alabamians during COVID-19 crisis

When Alabama shut down in April to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Lorine Askew and her four daughters did their best to keep their two restaurants’ doors open, even though it was a struggle for their families.

“Like everybody else, we were affected by the shutdown,” said Askew. “But we never gave up because we had people working for us. Those people had families to feed and bills to pay, and they needed to work. When you care about your employees, you try to sacrifice for them, even if you are not getting paid. But God has continued to bless us.”

Askew and her daughters, Mary Key, Kia Tyndale, Jerelene Askew and Rewa Ford, together run Pannie-George’s Kitchen, a family-owned restaurant with locations in Auburn and Montgomery. It is named for Lorine’s parents, Pannie and George Taylor, who often welcomed church friends into their kitchen for a home-cooked “Sunday supper,” and passed their love of serving others to their children and grandchildren.

“We didn’t start out to open a restaurant, but God led us to it,” Key said. “We started out doing plate sales to raise money for our family reunion trip. We sold them at the local hospital and car lots. But people loved the food so much that they wanted us to continue, so my mom, sisters and I opened the restaurant in Auburn 15 years ago.”

Pannie-George’s Kitchen has become a favorite spot. Its new Montgomery location, which opened in January, was catching on fast. Then, the coronavirus hit.

During the shutdown, Pannie-George’s Kitchen was forced to close its dining rooms and reduce hours of operation, but it never stopped serving customers. Like other restaurants, Pannie-George’s Kitchen offered takeout and curbside service at both locations. Customers could order prepackaged meals they could reheat at home.

It was at this time that the family learned from a longtime customer and friend about the help available through ALtogether Alabama, a one-stop shop where Alabamians can ask for assistance or lend a hand during the COVID-19 crisis.

Established through a partnership with Gov. Kay Ivey’s officeOpportunity Alabama and the Alabama Power Foundation, ALtogether Alabama directs businesses, nonprofits and municipalities harmed by COVID-19 to partners that can help find relief. It connects program partners with those who most need help.

Pannie-George’s Kitchen was connected with the Alabama Power Foundation, which, through its new COVID-19 Technical Assistance Program, directed the business to a variety of funding and grant opportunities.

“When the foundation reached out to us, I said, ‘Look at God. He’s so awesome,’” Jerelene Askew said. “We had no idea there were so many resources we could apply for through the Small Business Administration (SBA). The foundation has gone above and beyond to help us, and I’m just so thankful.”

The foundation provided Lorine Askew and her daughters guidance on how the federal coronavirus relief act and other state and federal assistance could help as they navigate the hardships they face. The pandemic unemployment assistance program was created by Congress to provide financial aid to businesses and families affected by the coronavirus.

The foundation helped Pannie-George’s Kitchen pursue a forgivable loan through the Payroll Protection Program and assisted the restaurant owners in completing an application for an Emergency Injury Disaster Loan from the SBA. Additionally, the foundation offered advice on how Pannie-George’s Kitchen could take advantage of other benefits, including the employee retention tax credit and the payroll tax deferral programs offered under the coronavirus aid bill. The foundation also introduced Pannie-George’s Kitchen to leaders from Hope Credit Union, a community-based bank that has been helping small Alabama businesses.

Lorine Askew said the funds will be a “blessing,” especially since the pandemic is far from over.

“It means that we can breathe,” she said. “The funds will allow us to pay our bills, keep our employees working, and keep the lights on and the restaurant open. It’s a blessing that people care about us, so we must tell others.”

What happens when the money runs out?

The Boys and Girls Ranches of Alabama were also hit hard during the statewide shutdown and received a helping hand from the Alabama Power Foundation and ALtogether Alabama. Sponsored by the Alabama Sheriffs Association, this nonprofit provides Christian, family-style homes for the state’s abandoned, abused and neglected school-aged children.

“A lot of people view our ranches as a halfway house or a delinquent facility, but that’s not the case,” said Candice Gulley, director of the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch. “We provide these kids a safe home with ‘moms and dads’ to give them the best chance at life as possible. We see our ranches as a first chance at life for a lot of these kids, rather than a second chance.”

Children ages 6-18 live as part of a “family” unit on one of three working ranches. The kids help care for the livestock, work the farm, handle daily household chores and take part in regular devotions with their “ranch family.”

Gulley said the ranches are funded primarily through donations from individuals, civic organizations, churches and foundations. But when Alabama shut down in the spring, it brought a halt to much of that funding.

“Because the nation was hit so hard by the coronavirus, our economy just tanked,” Gulley said. “People were just struggling to put food on their own tables. When the funding stopped, we were faced with some hard decisions about how we were going to continue.”

Gulley said the administrative staff and the nonessential employees on the ranches were temporarily placed on furlough. Additionally, the ranches cut costs by adjusting their thermostats to 78 degrees, canceling their cable subscription and looking for other ways to reduce bills.

That’s when the Alabama Power Foundation stepped in to help the ranches find answers. Through its COVID-19 Technical Assistance Program, the foundation helped the ranches apply for loans through the Payroll Protection and other federal tax programs. The foundation directed them to available private and federal grant opportunities that could help meet their needs.

“The foundation introduced us to a lot of resources that we didn’t know were out there,” Gulley said. “When the foundation reached out, we were really struggling. It’s nice to have someone step up alongside us to help us care for these children.”

Gulley said things have been “looking up” in recent months. Furloughed employees are back on the job and the ranches are finding new ways to raise funds, such as the third annual Duck Norris Derby. The race, sponsored by the Tallapoosa Girls Ranch and the Tri-County Children’s Advocacy Center, will be streamed live on Facebook from Lake Martin Aug. 8.

“We’re just thankful for the tremendous amount of support we’ve received from the community during this time, even though it’s been difficult,” Gulley said. “It really does take a village. When community members come out here and cut grass, drop off meals or give graduation gifts to these kids, it means a lot.”

Myla Calhoun said the foundation is proud to help businesses and nonprofits like Pannie-George’s Kitchen and the Boys and Girls Ranches find the resources they need to successfully move forward during these difficult times.

“The Alabama Power Foundation is committed to supporting communities across Alabama and our technical assistance efforts are an extension of this commitment,” said Calhoun, president of the Alabama Power Foundation. “As we witnessed the negative effects the pandemic had on communities, we were able to quickly provide a viable solution by expanding our existing technical assistance program to connect small businesses and nonprofits with available resources and collaborative support.”

Check out www.altogetheralabama.com, along with this video, for more about how businesses, nonprofits and municipalities affected by the COVID-19 crisis can secure federal and nonprofit resources and receive a helping hand.

Here is how to use the ALtogether Alabama site to get assistance from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 mins ago

Chuck Martin endorses Republican Russell Bedsole in Alabama House District 49

Russell Bedsole’s Republican candidacy has received a boost in the Alabama House District 49 special election.

This seat, covering parts of Bibb, Chilton and Shelby Counties, was vacated by the resignation of State Rep. April Weaver (R-Brierfield), who left the legislature to join the administration of President Donald J. Trump.

Bedsole led the pack in the GOP primary held last week, finishing ahead of second-place Mimi Penhale and third-place Chuck Martin. Since no candidate got a majority, a runoff will be held on September 1.

On Wednesday night, Martin endorsed Bedsole in that runoff via a Facebook post.


Martin led Bibb County in primary votes and finished with a competitive 24.25% overall.

In a release, he expounded on why he is publicly backing Bedsole.

“After thoughtful consideration, I am endorsing Russell Bedsole to represent District 49 in the Alabama House of Representatives,” Martin stated. “Like me, Bedsole has deep roots in District 49. I believe he will be a strong voice for Bibb, Shelby, and Chilton counties, and he will fight for our communities’ conservative Christian values in Montgomery.”

Bedsole, a longtime deputy sheriff in Shelby County and an Alabaster city councilor, has already been endorsed by the likes of Shelby County Sheriff John Samaniego and the Alabama State Fraternal Order of the Police in the race.

“It is an honor to be endorsed by Chuck Martin,” Bedsole commented. “As a representative of District 49, I will fight for pro-life and pro-Second Amendment legislation, along with funding for developing crucial infrastructure, in the Alabama House of Representatives.”

Penhale, the legislative director for Shelby County’s legislative delegation, has taken an unpaid leave of absence from her state government job to run for office. She has been endorsed by the Alabama Farmers Federation.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

License plate to support Alabama business proposed — Must meet 1,000 application benchmark

A license plate that will support Alabama small businesses will be created if 1,000 apply for one by July 31.

Funds from purchasing the plate will be given to Main Street Alabama, which will in turn provide workshops and grants to small businesses around the Yellowhammer State.

The tag can be applied for here. A $50 fee accompanies the application.

“With this program, individuals can show their dedication to their favorite small businesses, who in many cases are their friends and neighbors, with a tag that gives back to them with workshops and grants focused on strengthening their business,” said Main Street Alabama state coordinator Mary Helmer in a statement.


Helmer added, “Small businesses keep it local by consistently sponsoring the local baseball team, providing gift baskets for the local charity drives and creating jobs in their community.”

Main Street Alabama is a non-profit entity and an offshoot of Main Street America organization.

The artwork on the tag was created by Chris Seagle, a graphic designer based in Birmingham.

The idea for a car tag supporting small business originated among a group of elected officials in Jefferson County.

Casey Middlebrooks, a member of the group and a Hoover City Councilman, said that his fellow officials “felt Main Street Alabama had the statewide presence and resources to facilitate support to small businesses throughout the state.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

2 hours ago

Ivey urges Alabamians to complete Census — Billions in funding, congressional seat at stake

Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) on Friday released a video public service announcement urging Yellowhammer State residents to complete the 2020 Census.

The deadline to complete the Census recently was moved up to September 30, meaning there is less than seven weeks left for Alabamians to either self-respond or respond to Census Bureau field staff.

Leaders from the public sector, as well as industry, economic development, charitable and civic organizations, have warned for months that Alabama has a lot on the line during the 2020 Census response period.

Projections have shown the state will lose a congressional district and corresponding electoral college vote — likely to a far-left state such as New York, California or Illinois — if Alabama’s response rate continues to lag.


“Complete your 2020 Census today,” Ivey said to begin the new PSA. “We only have until September 30.”

“Without you, Alabama stands to lose billions in funding, a seat in Congress and economic development opportunities,” she continued. “It only takes minutes to complete. Go to my2020census.gov or participate by phone or mail.”

The governor concluded, “Be counted — if not for you, for those in Alabama who depend on you for a brighter tomorrow.”


Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Report: Birmingham golf tournament Regions Tradition canceled for 2020

A report from WBRC in Birmingham on Friday says that the yearly golf tournament Regions Tradition has canceled the 2020 edition due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The event organizers say it will be back in early May of 2021.

WBRC says they were told by a “source close to the tournament” about the decision to cancel the 2020 version.

The tournament had previously been rescheduled from its normal late spring/early summer slot until September due to COVID-19 concerns.


Regions Tradition is a tournament on the PGA Tour Champions circuit, a series of competitions held each year for golfers over age 50.

According to Alabama NewsCenter, the annual Regions Tradition tournament has an economic impact on the Birmingham area between $20 million and $25 million every year.

The Tradition was first held in 1989 and is one of the five major golf tournaments on the Senior Circuit.

Regions took over as the event’s sponsor in 2010 and relocated the tournament to the Birmingham area beginning in 2011.

Steve Stricker won the tournament in 2019, a title he will now keep for two years.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

3 hours ago

Jefferson County health officials say coronavirus pandemic precautions will continue into 2021

Two impactful figures in Jefferson County’s healthcare system advised on Friday that the coronavirus pandemic and resulting precautions such as mask-wearing will remain a major factor in public life at least through the end of 2020.

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson and CEO of the UAB Health System/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance Will Ferniany briefed reporters on coronavirus information during a Friday morning videoconference.

“This pandemic is not going away by the end of December,” warned Ferniany.

Wilson said it was “very likely” that he would push to keep a mask order in place across Jefferson County “through the flu season” which would indicate the ordinance would stay in place at least through the spring of 2021.


“We have pretty good evidence that our face-covering orders, and our help from the public wearing face coverings, has made a difference,” remarked Wilson.

“We still have a ways to go but we’re starting to bend the curve downward,” Wilson told reporters.

The remarks made by Wilson and Ferniany are similar to what Mobile County epidemiologist Dr. Rendi Murphree told Yellowhammer News in recent days.

Ferniany said that UAB is making a significant investment in rapid testing that should be ready for action by the end of the year, the availability of which should make dealing with the virus more manageable.

Wilson highlighted a standard he felt more people should understand.

The county health officer said that any person exposed to someone positive for COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days, even if they go out and get a test showing they do not have the virus.

“Fourteen days is the maximum amount of time from being exposed to the virus where you could still develop symptoms,” Wilson said to explain the policy.

Ferniany said UAB Hospital is currently treating around 90 patients, down from a peak of 130. He relayed that 40 of the COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized are in the ICU.

RELATED: Alabama coronavirus update: Hospitalizations begin to decrease, new cases falling

The executive also said that the toughest aspect of caring for COVID-19 cases currently is the shortage of nurses. He said the hospitals he oversees are down “several hundred nurses” with the partial explanation that traveling nursing companies are luring workers away with higher wages.

Wilson reported additional good news for Jefferson County. He said that the area is not experiencing a higher rate of black citizens dying from COVID-19 than white citizens.

“So far we’re not seeing a racial disparity in terms of deaths in Jefferson County,” he relayed.

“Forty-one percent of our deaths in Jefferson County with COVID-19 are African American. The African American population is 43%,” Wilson stated.

Yellowhammer News asked Wilson what kind of benchmarks he would need to be passed to trigger a loosening of coronavirus precautions and whether that would be dependent on a vaccine.

“We’re not going to be out of the woods for quite a long time,” Wilson responded.

“The bottom line will be the amount of disease activity we have in the community, and the trajectory of that,” he continued.

With respect to the vaccine, Wilson replied, “It is really hard to predict what is going to happen with the vaccine: How effective is it going to be, how widespread we’re going to be able to vaccinate people and how soon. There are way too many unknowns for us to say much about that.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95